21 Years

I cannot believe Kayla Dianne is turning 21.

I still remember the nurse tapping me on my leg and saying, “It’s time to have your baby.” And the first thing my mama said to me when Kayla was born: “I counted all her fingers and toes. She has 10 of each!” And how proud mom and dad were walking around Baptist East hospital with their, “Hello, I’m the Grandparent” stickers on.

And my sister, who had not spoken to me in close to a year, broke her silence with: “Can I hold her?” And her first smile at only two weeks old… That same big, beautiful, wide smile that graces the face of every Dianne in our family. (We have 4!)

And her determined little attitude at age 1- NOTHING, and I mean NOTHING got in her way.

I remember her walking in on Dad in the bathroom when she was only 2 and coolly, calmly inquiring: “Did you poop? Good job.”

I remember her quick little chubby legs pushing the pedals on her tricycle as fast as she could at 3.

How she gushed when she had her first little crush on a classmate named “Chance” of all things at the age of 4.

I can still see her little fingers with the perfect little nail beds tracing Pecchioni and then tossing the tracing paper aside and spelling it out all on her own at 5.

I can see her wide little eyes looking up at me at 6 years old every single time we got out of the car and I said to her, “Thanks for rollin’ with a sister” and she said right back, never missing a beat, “Thanks for lettin’ a sister roll!”

I can see the delight on her brother’s face, how he adored her, and how he looked up to her even when they were dancing around the house in their underwear when she was 7.

I can see her little beard moving up and down as she gave a speech to her class at the Brown School, dressed up like Abraham Lincoln, black hat and all, at 8.

I can see her hair flowing in the wind and her little legs moving quickly as she splashes in the waves at the beach with her brother when she was 9.

I can hear her yelling at me, “I’m gonna do it!” at 10.

I can feel her breathe on my neck as I held her after her first real heartbreak when she did not make her middle school dance team at 11.

And I can feel her hug take my breath away as she literally ran into me and held me tight when she made it at 12.

How proud I was when she made up her own little mind to try out for the Youth Performing Arts school, did so, and was accepted at 13.

I can feel my eyes well up and my heart beat outside of my chest, the first time I saw her sing on stage in front of hundreds of people at 14.

I can remember how dizzy and bewildered I felt when she told me I was “never on her side” at 15.

I can still feel my mother’s spirit as I watched her at her Sweet 16 party. What a perfect little lady she was… at 16.

I can feel my heart racing and the cold hard hospital floor, when I prayed to God to protect her during surgery, on my hands and knees at 17.

I can see and feel my heart driving away as she headed out on her own for college at 18.

And then headed even farther away for a summer job at 19.

I can feel the pride radiating from Daddy AC as he helped her shop for her first car at 20.

And I feel the connection, warmth, and love of an entire community of family and friends as she presently prepares to graduate from college with a sky high GPA and will soon be Broadway-bound at 21.

21 years is a very, very long time if you are counting down time to retirement, in a horrible marriage, or serving time in prison. But for the joy of being this little shining star’s mama, 21 years has gone by as fast as you just read that paragraph. I adore my little magic.

Kayla Dianne Pecchioni- I could not be more proud of you. You are the light of my life. You changed my life. You saved my life. You are my greatest achievement, far and above anything I have ever accomplished. God blessed me the day he picked me to be your mother and I could not imagine a world without you in it. Somehow, this just does not seem enough, but it conveys everything I want to say: I love you daughter. Have a very very happy 21st birthday.

About Deedee Cummings

As a therapist, attorney, author, and CEO of Make A Way Media, Deedee Cummings has a passion for making the world a better place. All 16 of Cummings’ diverse picture, poetry, and workbooks for kids reflect her professional knowledge and love of life. Colorful and vibrant, her children’s books are not only fun for kids and adults to read, they also work to teach coping skills, reinforce the universal message of love, encourage mindfulness, and facilitate inclusion for all. Cummings has spent more than two decades working within the family therapy and support field and much of her writing shares her experiences of working with kids in therapeutic foster care. As a result, her catalogs of published books for kids are filled with positive, hopeful messages. Using therapeutic techniques in her stories to teach coping skills, Cummings also strives to lessen the stigma that some people feel when it comes to receiving mental health assistance.
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